Three weeks ago, a brilliant star let his light fade from this world and in his absence, I have struggled to find a way to deal with his passing. I know that to some it seems so silly, mourning the loss of someone so wholly unconnected to me, but I’m not writing this for those people. I’m writing this for me and for those out there who may be struggling, as I am, to find some way to say this last goodbye.
To be perfectly honest, I’ve been dreading the day when I would finally sit down to write this post. It’s something I’ve been meaning to write for weeks now, but I just haven’t been able to bring myself to do it. Every time I’ve tried, my heart has failed me and I’ve ended up doing anything and everything else I could think of, just to avoid this pain. Because quite honestly, writing this hurts. It hurts on so many levels, and a very big piece of me wonders why I’m bothering at all. Why can’t I just ignore this? Why can’t I act like nothing happened? Why can’t I do what I’ve been doing for so many years and just pretend everything is okay when, in fact, it’s not? But I think therein lies my answer.
Everything is not okay.
Jonghyun’s death was not okay.
I am not okay.
I feel Jonghyun’s death in a way I never could have believed possible. It has cut me to my core and the ache in my heart is so profound, I feel it in every fiber of my being.
I’ve spent a lot of time these past few weeks, trying to figure out why I feel this way. After all, it’s not like I was personally connected to Jonghyun in any way. But the more I think about it, the more I realize this last statement couldn’t be any farther from the truth. Why? Because the light Jonghyun put into the world, through his music, through his art, through himself, was the very light that helped me find my way out of the black pit of nothing my life had become. Through his music, his spirit was able to touch my own. Though half a world apart, his soul touched mine, and as a result I was able to find my way home.
But I couldn’t do the same for him.
And that’s what kills me.
Jonghyun and the other four members of SHINee walked, quite literally, into my life during one of my darkest moments, bringing with them a light that profoundly changed me. But I couldn’t return the favor and the feelings of sorrow, guilt and regret that have embedded themselves so deeply in my heart, may stay with me forever.
I know it’s silly to feel so much over such a fleeting moment but as one who has been fighting my own battle with depression for the better part of a decade, I can’t help but feel that a part of me should have known. I should have been able to pick up on some sort of sign. There should have been some sort of signal that my own aching soul should have recognized and responded to. But I never sensed a thing. Instead I just stood there, too dazzled by the light before me to notice anything else and for that, I feel as if I owe Jonghyun and SHINee as a whole, some sort of apology.
I’m sorry I couldn’t see past my own pain. I’m sorry I let myself be carried away by your own brilliant light. I’m sorry I couldn’t bring a little bit of light into your own dark world. I’m sorry that despite the fact that you’ve always been there to help carry my burdens, I couldn’t carry some of yours for you. I’m sorry you felt you had to suffer alone. I’m sorry the four of you left behind will have to carry the weight of Jonghyun’s passing for the rest of your lives. I’m sorry I can’t help you through this in any tangible way. For so many reasons, in so many ways, I’m sorry.
As guilty as I feel, I can’t deny that I also feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude to both Jonghyun and SHINee as a whole. The moment they stepped into that crowded little room, they became the physical embodiment of everything I’d been so desperately clinging to as I struggled to climb my way out of my own dark pit of depression. They became my lifeline. My saviors. My heroes.
I’m sure that to some this doesn’t make any sense, but to those who have used their love of dramas and/or music to help them through life’s struggles, I know you get it. My love of all things Hallyu has stemmed from my own desperate need to find light in an overwhelmingly dark world. This blog, my identity as Zombie Mamma, they have never been anything more than a feeble attempt to cling to the one thing in this world that has never failed to bring me joy. Every concert I’ve attended, every drama I’ve watched, every song I’ve listened to, every article and blog post I’ve written have all been nothing more than a sad attempt to remind myself that there’s still good in the world. That there’s still light and color and beauty left in the world and that it’s all worth fighting for. It’s all worth living for and for the past several years, all of this has been enough to keep me going. My love of K-Pop and dramas has allowed me to cling to the very last bit of me that was still me and I’ve used that to claw my way out of an indescribably awful pit. But it hasn’t been easy and I could have never done it on my own. The experiences I’ve had, the friends I’ve made over the past few years, they’ve all played a vital role in helping me find my way out of that dreadful darkness. Which is why I’m here today. And it’s why I feel so very grateful, not just to the friends who have so willingly poured themselves into my life, but to the artists who have so willingly dedicated their lives to putting their light into the world. Artists like Jonghyun, who poured himself into his music and unknowingly became the light that led me out of a depression so overwhelmingly dark, I almost lost my ability to find my way out. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that without this light, I wouldn’t be here, so how could I ever be anything but eternally grateful? To Jonghyun. To SHINee. To all of the other artists who have given up so much of themselves to put light and life and joy out into the world. To say thank you seems so very inadequate and yet, it’s the only thing I can do.
As grateful as I am, the pain is still there. The brilliant colors that Jonghyun’s light brought back into my world have dulled since his passing. My heart still aches every time I hear one of his songs, or come across his one of his pictures, or catch a clip of one of his videos. The tears still fall and I still struggle to find a way to convince myself that “this too shall pass.” I know that time is a great healer. It’s a lesson I’ve had to learn over and over again, but that doesn’t make trying to process Jonghyun’s passing any easier. Time may heal all wounds but that doesn’t mean you won’t be left without scars. But maybe scars are a good thing. They may bring with them memories of a painful past but they might also help us to remember that once upon a time, we allowed ourselves to be open to something beautiful and wonderful and even if that means we were also hurt along the way, those scars can serve as proof that we also had the courage to live.
In the end, I think that’s what Jonghyun would want us to do. He would want us to find the courage not just to survive, but to thrive. He would want us to put our own special light out into the world. He would want us to live. And so I shall. As best I can. For as long as I am able. And I encourage all of you to do the same. For yourself. For those around you. For Jonghyun.
You did well, Dear One.
You did well.